Monthly Archives: May 2012

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Building a travel agency website

One of the reasons there are so many poorly designed travel agency web sites is that they are so easy to build. It sometimes seems as though everyone is a website designer. The fact is, however, the choice of who builds your website is an important one. Professional web development services are an absolute necessity unless you possess a very solid understanding of design, layout and fundamental HTML skills. With that said, however, it is possible to “do it yourself” and some of my favorite travel agency web sites were built by agents with a lot of determination to have a quality site without breaking the bank. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Yesterday, on our French Country Waterways barge excursion along the Burgundy Canal, we stepped off the boat and into a Michelin three-star restaurant.

Today would be the last full day of our barge trip. We’d enjoy a morning at the open-air markets in Montbard, where Horizon II was moored, and follow that with a visit to the 12th-century Abbey of Fontenay. We’d return for lunch on board, one last delicious lunch, then head out to see Semur en Auxois, a beautiful medieval town built on a granite bluff.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Travel Agency Web Sites: Content

Most travel agency websites fall on a spectrum with regard to their function and content. At one end of the spectrum, the website’s content revolves around the travel agency and its relationship with clients with very little mention of suppliers or specific travel product. At the other end of the spectrum, the website speaks predominantly to travel product and suppliers, with travel specials, supplier offers and promotions being the central theme of the site’s content.

Most travel agency websites fall somewhere between the extremes of the above content spectrum. As I indicated yesterday, the strategic design of the website should be in line with the core mission of the agency. The agency stressing personalized service will want to gravitate more to the relationship side of the spectrum. The agency with a business plan geared to volume and mass market will more naturally orient their site to the product end of the spectrum. Achieving a balance along the content spectrum in line with the agency’s personality is a key marketing element to consider in any web site plan or re-design. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

A few weeks ago, I was asked to stop by an automobile dealership to share a few ideas with their sales team. The monthly sales target is to sell 300 cars. (That’s a lot of cars). Each salesperson in the room carried a gold marker in their pocket reminding them that they were the best in the business. But it was the dealership’s one word mission statement caught my attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Another month has gone by, and the Nashville Predators are sadly not going to be in the Stanley Cup Finals this week, and I’m still in a bit of a slump. On the upside, I do have a cruise group currently sailing, two more groups departing in July, and I’ve also had an uptick in bookings in the past few weeks. But I still feel like I’m in a slump.

So as I continue to work my way out, earlier this month, I had a meeting with the Director of Community Relations for the Predators Foundation. My Royal Caribbean BDM joined me at the meeting, and helped pitch the idea of doing a fan appreciation cruise as a fundraiser for the Foundation. They were intrigued by the idea, especially when they crunched their own numbers, realizing the potential funds that could be raised with such an endeavor. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Loyalty schmoyalty

Last week, Mary Jo Babiarz was lamenting the demise of client loyalty and it got me to thinking. In our industry, not only do we need to worry about loyalty from clients, but we also need to be very concerned about the loyalty of our suppliers.  I might even go so far as to say that loyalty in many senses is one of the greatest threats to our existence—or one of the guarantees to our success.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – May 25, 2012

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Deck Plans

Barging Burgundy: A Day On The Canal

After stepping on board Horizon II yesterday, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep. The next morning, while at breakfast, we heard the barge’s engine begin a gentle hum. Horizon II slowly pulled away from the river bank and began chugging along the Burgundy Canal. We were underway.

During the next five days, we would barge from Tanlay to Port de Venarey Les Laumes, covering a distance — now hold on to your hats — of slightly more than 30 miles. You could bicycle that distance in a few hours; walk it in a couple of days while stopping to fish for your dinner, and yet we would spend five days getting to our destination.

Get the picture? Life on the barge is slow and ultra-relaxed. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Vacation Express, one of the largest tour operators in the southeast United States, announced at the beginning of 2012 it had been wholly acquired by Sunwing Travel Group Inc., a family-owned and operated, Toronto-based company and Canada’s leading vertically integrated leisure travel company. Within a month of the company’s new ownership announcement, Vacation Express got their Sunwing Airlines program up and running and open for sale, and it’s been a booking frenzy ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Learn to drop the rock

Last week, I was speaking to a group of business leaders and it hit me. A gentleman who was attending the evening reception said something that hit me squarely in the head. His five words made so much sense that I just knew I’d be stealing them to hopefully hit a few travel agents squarely in their heads.  So what were these mysterious five words? Ready? Here you go…learn to drop the rock! Read the rest of this entry »

Where is consumer loyalty? We are living in a “me” generation. It’s basically the same story about the small guy vs. the big corporations, and how do we compete? How do we keep our clients faithful?

In this day and age, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with our service, our marketing skills, our ability to price match, the personal touch that we provide, or how much knowledge we have about a particular destination.

I recently attended the Royal Caribbean Road Show, and they mentioned that when consumers were polled, the results indicated Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Another “aha” moment on Facebook

Facebook has been in the news a lot this past week.  First they went public and made Mark Zuckerberg a cool $19 billion. Then Zuckerberg got married (smart move with his $19B earned before he married). And in much less important news, I had yet another “aha” moment with Facebook.

You have all heard it before—you need to be embracing social media. And for most of us, Facebook is the most important one. With nearly a billion users, it simply cannot be ignored.  If you like it or not, Facebook appears to be here to stay.  Your customers are likely embracing it in some manner. And if that is where they are talking, that is where you need to be to join the conversation. So, what was my “aha” moment? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – May 18, 2012

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Merits of Cancellation Fees

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another – you get a new client who has a decent vacation request, and a budget that makes sense, and you go to town, pulling out the stops and delivering a top-of-the-line experience with a commission at the end that will make your bank account weep with joy. And then, disaster strikes! Someone gets sick, or a job layoff occurs, or some other reason which makes the client say that dreaded phrase: “We need to cancel.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Oceania Riviera In Valencia, Spain – Part II

Before you step ashore, a little history: Valencia was founded by the Romans in 138 BC, although much of the architecture in the old quarter dates back to the 14th century. The city, surrounded as it is by so many abundant resources and such a rich terrain and climate for agriculture, has been affluent from the start.

Posted In: Supplier Profile

ShoreTrips Shore Excursions

Barry and Julie Karp founded ShoreTrips over 10 years ago. They found a niche that had been ignored: an independent company that could provide tours and excursions in ports and major cities. This created increased revenue for agents who now have many activity options in addition to what cruises lines or suppliers offer. Barry and Julie have grown during the past decade to offer excursions from Alaska and Hawaii to the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

As I meet agents all over the world, many wonder what makes me qualified to speak with authority to the travel industry. It’s a legitimate question and I am happy to  explain. In 1979 I decided to change careers. “I stopped being a starving musician and started being a starving travel agent.” I’ve been a professional speaker and author since 1999 and I often mention the previous quote in my presentations. When I speak to travel agents, it’s always met with laughter and giggles. It was a joke that rang true 31 years ago and still sounds familiar to many of today’s travel professionals. But, some things have changed. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Alaska by ShoreTrips

The Last Frontier. Also known as the 49th State and home to some of the most ecologically diverse and remarkable ecosystems in the world, Alaska is in its prime. Making the transition between the cold winter months and the warming, albeit still cool summer months, this very moment is the ideal time to explore our most northern state.

The fusion of nature and mankind presents visitors with a delicate blend, offering the best both can offer in picturesque settings – old towns from the gold rush days standing in the shadows of snow-covered mountains, their reflection bouncing off the lake in front of them. What could possibly be better than that?

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you find yourself involved in self-sabotage?   If so you’re not alone, I do it too.

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence.  Whenever I start to succeed, sometimes I find myself not taking that critical next step toward my goal.  I tend to do this when things are going along great and then all of a sudden I get scared.  Yes, I get scared of success.

For a while, I found comfort in a group of people willing to lament with me.  They let me cry on their shoulders, told me nice things that tickled my ears, like, “you tried,” and, “its ok that things didn’t work out.”  They were trying to make me feel “better” so that was ok, but in reality it wasn’t helping me. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. More phone calls are made on Mather’s Day than any other day of the year because, well, let’s face it, we all love our mothers. But what about the clients that are mothers? Did you call to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day? I did. Sort of.  I sent them an email broadcast wishing them well. No pitch for a trip. No cheerleading for how great we are. No links to our blog. Just a simple wish.  And it paid off for me—as it usually does when I contact my clients on ten special days during the year.  So what did I get out of it? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Promoting Group Cruises

We’ve discussed group cruise pricing, finding group business and hosting a cruise night. Next in this series is promotion of your group.

This is everyone’s favorite part to hate – promotion of a cruise sounds rather simple, but it can fall flat, leaving you with no group at all, or a much smaller one than you anticipated. There are a few nuggets you need to understand right away.

Read the rest of this entry »